'It's falling into a gray area:' Program for adults with disabilities looking for a new home

EAST TROY — A program for adults with disabilities is looking for a new home. They think they found it, but some worry about the location. There's a legal gray area holding up the move.

The mission of Haase House in East Troy is giving adults with disabilities the skills to live independently.

Current Haase House in East Troy

"Some may want to live on their own and have a job and a car," explained Jeanne Kern, business operations and marketing manager for Haase House.

In hourly programs, clients prepare meals, exercise, and develop hobbies, but with six clients on average, plus support staff, the isolated farmhouse on a business highway has its setbacks.

"We don't have neighbors, and we don't have safe streets," said Mary Haase, owner and program director of Haase House. "We're outgrowing it as far as wanting space."

Haase and Kern want to move the program into a residential neighborhood, where clients can be part of a community.

"I found this home on the other side of town," Haase said.

The house Haase is looking to buy is in the Village of Mukwonago, and is close to the grocery store. It's a ranch. There's no stairs, which is good for people with disabilities. However, neighbors Contact 6 spoke with do have concerns.

Property in Mukwonago Haase House is looking to buy.

"The house is zoned residential, single family, and to have come out and say, all of sudden, they're going to have all these disabled people coming and going in the place, that just isn't conducive with the neighborhood," said neighbor Tom Boyle.

The Haase House reached out to the Village of Mukwonago months ago and told Contact 6, recently, they'd hit a wall.

"What we discovered is, within residential neighborhoods, that use is not permitted," explained John Weidl, village administrator.

Village code allows for day cares and other mom and pop operations regulated by the state in residential neighborhoods. The Haase House is not state licensed.

Village of Mukwonago board meeting

"While this is a fantastic idea, it's falling into a gray area of our code where we're not quite sure how to deal with it and move forward," Weidl said.

Contact 6 emailed the village with questions in June. The next day, Weidl called Haase with a willingness to work together.

"There are some federal laws that we could cite for exceptions for Americans with disabilities. There are accommodations we could make under the reasonable accommodations' clause," revealed Weidl.

At its next meeting, the village board proposed adopting the Haase House plan for operations.

Weidl wrote to Contact 6 about the plans for Haase House in Mukwonago:

"The Village Board has taken a look at this issue and, in consultation with our legal counsel, believes that a federal court is likely to find that offering a reasonable accommodation, whether through a planned unit development (PUD), conditional use permit (CUP) or otherwise, would be in compliance with federal law regarding the Americans With Disability Act (ADA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA).

The Village Board proposes adopting Mary’s Plan of Operations for the Haase House located at 312 Roberts Drive, citing the applicable federal laws, and thus granting the reasonable accommodation for that property and for Mary’s proposed use. We have no issues with her initial plans as presented and only ask that her final plan of operations include aspects that cover 1) specific locations for on-site staff parking, 2) fire protection - including annual inspections of fire extinguishers, alarms, and exit signs, 3) ADA accessibility from one entrance/exit and one bathroom and 4) a total occupancy limit for the premises. Note we are not setting that limit, only asking that it be documented.

That list of items the Village Board has asked for is composed from comments made at the public input meetings conducted by Mary and from phone correspondence directly from the neighborhood residents with the Village. Mostly, residents were/are concerned about neighborhood parking, knowing how many persons would be using the site at any one time, and safety of the premises and surrounding area. 

I hope this helps. As Mary and I have not met to discuss any of this beyond in concept, I am not sure how this will turn out. However, I remain optimistic that there is a path for the Haase House to become a part of Mukwonago."

"Where these young adults want to be serviced is in a home, and they also need to be safe, and they also do not need to be segregated," Haase said.

The neighbor Contact 6 spoke with is worried about traffic, parking, and safety. The Haase House said they want to teach clients to be good neighbors.

The board takes up the issue this month and will hear comments from neighbors.